How to Check the Real Bitrate of Audio Files

Have you ever downloaded a high-quality audio file like a 320kbps MP3 or a lossless FLAC? Regardless of what you see in your music player, there’s a chance your file’s audio quality isn’t as good as it claims to be. Unfortunately, it is relatively simple to convert low-quality audio files to “higher-quality” formats without actually improving the audio quality. This is referred to as “upscaling.” If you downloaded a “lossless” song and it sounds quiet or fuzzy, it was most likely upscaled. This emindsca teaches you how to use the free software Spek to determine whether your audio file is truly high-quality or has been upscaled.

Steps

1. Spek should be installed on your computer. Spek is a free programme that analyses the spectrum of an audio file. The spectrum (or chart) is a graph that shows the frequency (in kHz) and the loudness (in dB), and this information can be used to calculate the true bitrate. To get Spek, go to http://spek.cc and then click spek-0.8.2.msi (the version number may be slightly different) to download it to your computer. Then, double-click the downloaded file and follow the installation instructions on the screen.

If you’re using macOS, download the installer by clicking spek-0.8.3.dmg (the version number may vary). Then, to install, double-click the downloaded file and drag the Spek icon to the Applications folder icon.

2. Open Spek. After installing Spek, you’ll find it on your Start menu (Windows) or in your Applications folder (macOS).

3. Click the folder icon. It’s at the top-left corner of Spek. This opens your file browser.

4. Select the audio file and press the Open button. Spek supports almost every audio file format, including AAC, MP3, M4A, FLAC, and WAV. You’ll now see a colourful spectrum representing your song.

5. Take note of the graph’s cut-off. How far does the spectrum extend? The cut-off is the point at which the graph can no longer go any higher. To get an idea of the cutoffs you might see for different bitrates:

MP3 64 kbps: Cut-off at 11kHz.

MP3 128 kbps: Cut-off at 16 kHz.

MP3 192 kbps: Cut-off at 19 kHz.

MP3 320 kbps: Cut-off at 20 kHz.

M4A 500 kbps: Cut-off at 22 kHz.

FLAC or WAV lossless quality (usually 1000 kbps or higher): No cut-off.

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